In former Stein Mart location, a collection of California-cool crafted goods now waits to be discovered

Gone are the floral print blouses, ‘tummy control’ leggings, and housewares. In their place is a chic collection of vintage and repurposed merchandise sourced from 50 different vendors.
Inside the former Stein Mart off South Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs a chic collection of vintage and repurposed goods, gathered from 50 different vendors, awaits perusal.

One step into the vast, open space in the center of the Plaza Del Sol Shopping Center off South Palm Canyon Drive and you can tell one thing immediately: This ain’t no Stein Mart.

Gone are the floral print blouses, “tummy control” leggings, and housewares. In their place is a collection of all-vintage clothing, accessories and artwork — a California cool collection designed to appeal to visitors seeking an experience, not the T-shirts and trinkets offered in shops that typically dot the landscape of tourist towns.

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“Everything we do is a destination retail experience,” explained Lee Rutsch, director of retail for a quickly-expanding group of stores with three desert locations. “The music, the merchandise — it’s all for the customer. We want to give them a sense of amazement, a sense of awe.”

That’s certainly the case inside the 37,000 square feet that used to house Stein Mart, where James Morelos opened his fourth store — dubbed “Market Market” — on Sunday.

It was also the case when Morelos opened his flagship Mojave Flea Trading Post in 10,000 square feet off north Palm Canyon Drive on New Year’s Day 2021; when he followed with a second Mojave Flea in Yucca Valley in October 2021; and when he created Fog City Flea at the Ferry Building in San Francisco in 2022.

Don’t call it a retail revolution, but Morelos is definitely on to something. The maker’s market veteran is keen on promoting meaningful relationships for both the creators whose items are chosen for sale (there are 50 of them set up inside Market Market) and customers who wander peacefully between the tastefully arranged displays.

A mix of carefully curated goods, as well as a healthy dose of whimsy, greets visitors who explore the spaces of newly-opened Market Market in the Plaza Del Sol Shopping Center.

“During the pandemic, people were looking for an escape from reality, and I knew a brick-and-mortar marketplace in Palm Springs would work,” he explained to Inside Hook last month. “So, when I got a call about taking over the space [where Mojave Flea is], it was just about having no fear and going for it. Even though it was a strange time, the store popped from day one, and it’s grown from there.”

The experience was similar at Market Market.

“We opened on Jan. 1 and it was absolutely packed,” Rutsch said, adding that word spread not only from neighbors who had been watching the former department store’s transformation, but also among those in the design industry. Many featured inside Market Market are from Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and San Diego — the same cities that a large contingent of Palm Springs visitors escape from when they need a weekend away.

“We came to Palm Springs because we knew it was a destination people wanted to go to,” Rutsch said Monday afternoon as a steady stream of shoppers came and went from Market Market. “This store is a retail destination.”

More information: Market Market is open from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. seven days a week at the Plaza Del Sol Shopping Center, located at 1555 South Palm Canyon Dr. in Palm Springs

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